The perfect team — Our commitment to building better individuals and better students is uncompromising.
Valerie Villahermosa Ang
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and attended the University of Toronto where I obtained an Honors Bachelor of Science with a double major in Psychology and Sociology. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but rather than obtaining a traditional teaching certificate, I realized that the Montessori method of teaching fueled a brighter passion in me. I received my Montessori teaching certification from the American Montessori Society in 2003 at Sheridan College and have since been teaching at various Montessori schools in both Canada and the United States.
My husband Vince and I have 4 amazing children: Ceyan (12), Nate (10), Paisley (6) and Caleb (5). To the chagrin of our families in Canada, we moved to Florida in early 2014 and continue to LOVE the year-long warmth! In our free time, we love to watch basketball, visit the parks, go to the movies, and explore beaches, nature trails, and boardwalks.
I have always been an advocate for alternative education and have both homeschooled my children as well as had them attend Montessori schools where I’ve taught in the past. When I first discovered Walden and its child-centered approach to free thinking and the passion towards learning that I saw in both the staff and students, I knew it would be a perfect fit for my family. I am so honored and eager to be able to bring Montessori to WCS!
I was born in the small town of Plymouth, Wisconsin. As a child, I remember how much I loved walking to the library to get new books every week. I also loved music and took piano lessons for eight years, while also singing in choirs. After graduating high school, I attended Lakeland College, also in Wisconsin, where I worked at the campus and town libraries. For my first student teaching assignment, I taught all subjects in a 5th grade classroom; while at my second placement, I taught English and Social Studies to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I learned a tremendous amount in those six months, and in 2002, I graduated with an Elementary/Middle School Education degree and a minor in History. That same year, I married my husband, Tim, and started working as a substitute teacher for the school district. Our son, Triton, was born in 2004, and we relocated to Florida three months later. After staying home for a year with Triton, I began teaching at a private school here in Winter Park. There, I taught fifth grade for ten years. In my free time, I love to cook and read. And, I also enjoy watching sports -- especially football! It has been so exciting watching each child grow in the fun and creative environment that Walden Community School allows.
I was born and raised right here in Central Florida and have a large family in the area. I have four children, whom I immensely enjoy watching grow and learn, Tre (7), Lucy (5), and my twins, Carter and Mason (1). In my free time, I love to get outdoors with my kids and husband, cook and eat yummy food, and spend time with my own community of friends and extended family.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher, and I truly feel passionate about this career. I attended college in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina at Appalachian State University and graduated in December 2005 with my K-6 Elementary Education degree and a minor in English. After substitute teaching there for a bit, I moved back home and started working for Orange County Public Schools in 2007. As I continued working for the county, it became harder for me to hold true to my personal teaching philosophies as I saw the negative effects that county policy and academic changes were having on my students. I decided to open myself up to other options and was fatefully introduced to Walden Community School. I immediately fell in love and cherish being able to continue teaching with the freedom to facilitate children’s natural desire to learn -- and to nurture the whole child. It has been a dream come true.
Bonnie Burke, M.Ed
I am the product of two New Englanders, my mother from Boston and father from Maine, though my sister and I were born and raised in St. Petersburg, FL. My father taught secondary math and coached at St. Petersburg High School for 32 years and never missed a day. My mother trained revenue agents for the State, but couldn’t become one because she was female. I continue to learn from them every day of my life.
I graduated from Stetson University with a B.A. in both Psychology and Math, received my Masters from UCF in Exceptional Student Education and Math, and am A.B.D. (All But Dissertation) at the University of Florida in Exceptional Student Education and Neuropsychology. I have taught for over thirty years, working in the private and public sectors in Orlando/Winter Park and New Orleans. I am certified in a number of areas Math, Specific Learning Disabilities, and Varying Exceptionalities, among them.
I have experience teaching children with every conceivable “label” --but have often noted that traditional assessments, subsequent stereotypes, and resultant lowered expectations for students can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What if the student's only “learning problem” is that he or she doesn't fit into the local school system’s instructive model? Enter Walden Community School - where students' individual learning channels are explored, celebrated, and integrated into an educational paradigm built to nurture their success. I am so happy to be excited about education again - and I am so very happy to teach - and learn - at Walden Community School.
Ashley Butler, M.A.
I was born and raised in Winter Park and received my B.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University in North Carolina. After graduation, I moved to NYC, where I lived (and played!) for three years before backpacking solo through Europe -- and through 15 countries -- for six months, which was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I accidentally ended up back in Winter Park, where I decided to continue with psychology, receiving my Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Rollins College in 2004 and becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (L.M.H.C.) several years later. I practiced as a therapist at several local agencies before my daughter was born, and I enjoy running, writing, and keeping up with my two amazing children.
I remember my first experience touring Walden: the teacher was standing on a chair, creating a “brain map” diagram with students, all of whom were relaxed and attentive on the floor, excitedly answering questions and coming up with their own. I was sold, knowing that this was the kind of school that would foster my children’s inquisitive natures and love of learning. I am thankful to contribute to Walden as the Coordinator and be a part of this wonderful community of teachers, students, and families.
I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania. I was the neighborhood babysitter starting at 12 years old and continued all through high school. Everyone told me that I should be a teacher, but I didn’t listen. I even taught at a local day care center in college; but, it wasn’t until my 4th year at the University of Pittsburgh that a wonderful professor helped me realize that teaching was my passion. I completed one more year of school and graduated with honors in elementary education. I then taught elementary school for 4 years in Maryland and Virginia before I moved to Central Florida in 2000 with my husband. I was teaching at a public school in Seminole County until I became a mom in 2005 when we adopted our oldest daughter, Sasha (then 3, now 15!). A little over a year later, we brought home our second daughter, Eliana (now 10). I loved being a stay at home mom with the girls, but I really missed teaching. I volunteered as much as I could in their classrooms, but
it just wasn’t the same.
When we enrolled Eliana at Walden Community School, the teacher in me felt right at home. It is so refreshing to find a school that is truly focused on the children. I am so excited to come back to education in a school that teaches children to become independent, motivated life-long learners.
Luz Vargas-Aponte, MS
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. While in college, I was an active member of student organizations where I helped coordinate activities, fundraisers, and community service aimed to educate the community and motivate kids in STEM areas. It also allowed me to experience teaching for the first time -- I was able to use my passion for mathematics and helping students by tutoring in different math and sciences areas.
After graduation, I had the opportunity to work in different areas in the industry including pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and forensic. Although working as a scientist was very fun, I felt the need to challenge myself to keep growing and learning. This feeling was the driving force to complete my Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering at the University at Buffalo. (Well, that and the satisfaction of being the only female engineer in a family full of male engineers!)
During the course of my academic career, I worked as a graduate assistant and research assistant. One of my proudest moments during this time was being awarded the “RISE” scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service to participate in high level research in the chemical engineering industry, where I assisted in completing a research project at the BASF Research & Development facility in Berlin, Germany.
I really loved all that Buffalo had to offer: great hair days (very important), paddleboarding along the Niagara River, kayaking in the Great Lakes, the proximity to the majestic Niagara Falls, and really long snow seasons (snow storms and all). However, being an Island girl at heart, I took my most precious belongings (textbooks, guitar, and video games) and relocated to Central Florida. As an advocate of independent thinking, I’m grateful to be teaching at Walden Community School. It’s my goal to spark curiosity within my students and to help them embrace and learn how fun can STEM areas can be.
Though I’ve lived in Florida for 6 years now, I come from a much chillier climate-- I grew up in small towns in Northern Michigan and Minnesota. In my childhood I loved to spend time outdoors as much as possible; building tunnels in the snow, playing creative games in our treehouse, picking wildflowers, etc. This love for the outdoors has translated into a curiosity about scientific phenomena in general, and I am very excited to be teaching math and science to the Woodpeckers group this year.
In high school, I was active in sports such as tennis, figure skating, and cross-country skiing. One of my first jobs was teaching children how to skate, and I have continued to have a passion for all kinds of teaching since then.
During college at the University of Minnesota, I studied English and Education and worked as a news reporter, writing tutor, cook, and camp counselor. I greatly enjoyed working for Concordia Language Villages, a language immersion summer camp program. When I moved to Florida, I continued to work with language education as a teacher of English for Speakers of other Languages at Hope Community Center and Seminole State College. I also began working in the public school system as a middle school tutor and progressed to teach for Seminole County at the middle school and elementary levels. As an intervention and ESE teacher over the past 4 years, I have gained experience in all subjects for grades K-8 and learned to adapt my teaching to individual student needs. I am currently certified in Elementary Education, Language Arts K-12, Math 5-9, and Exceptional Student Education K-12.
I love that Walden Community School focuses on weaving the academic subjects together with big questions that spark student interest. This aligns with my passion for creative, interconnected teaching with real world applications. I look forward to many exciting new challenges at Walden Community School.